The following is a guest post written by Kari of Sacred Mundane.
The 1985 fall cover of Teaching Home magazine features a smiling family of four together on the couch reading a book on space exploration. The five-year-old daughter grins, trying not to giggle, remembering the promise of ice cream on the way home.
I still remember choosing orange sherbet.
At the time I didn’t know we were educational pioneers, I just knew we had a great thing going. While everyone else was at school my brother and I explored the woods and picked blueberries and visited museums and rode bikes for hours on end. My mom made every moment a teachable moment, instilling in me a love for learning and cultivating curiosity and creativity. She taught me to see, to notice, to think. And most of all, to care.
But now I’m the mom, and the tricky part of having such a phenomenal homeschool experience is that my memories are idealistic and dream-like. They stand in sharp contrast to the somewhat lackluster homeschooling that takes place in my present suburban life.
While I remember hours spent by the wooded creek near our home, catching crawdads and water skippers, my children’s version is sugar ants and a garden hose trickling down the driveway.
I shake my head and wonder, “Can I really string these ordinary days into an excellent education?”
No matter what our upbringing, we all, at some point, struggle with comparing our real homeschool days with our ideal homeschool dreams. So what do we do?
Here are a few ways we can use the ideal to fuel our goals for the real.
Photo by Andrea_44
:: My Idealistic memory – Spending hours every day exploring the acres of forest where we lived. Creating crayon-rubbings of various leaves, catching bugs, drawing unusual plants.
:: A Realistic goal – Include nature in some form. Even urban-dwellers can find a spot of grass or dirt with a bit of a hike. Grow some plants in the window-sill. Spend every sunny day outside. Visit a park every time that you can. Grow a patio garden. Point out unusual trees when driving.
Cultivate in your own heart a genuine wonder for the world and your children will catch the wonder as well. Encourage the natural desire children have for stuffing their pockets full of rocks and twigs. Save their collections. Study rocks. Touch worms. Pick berries. Dirt under the finger-nails does a body good.
2. Physical Education
:: My Idealistic memory – My dad built us a gymnasium. No joke. As a PE teacher he had access to all the sporting equipment the school discarded. We had everything from basketball hoops to rope swings and everything in between.
:: A Realistic goal – Include physical education daily. Kids don’t need a gym, but they do need to move. I know one mom who sends her kids out to run laps around the house. Jump rope, run the stairs, play soccer, have sprint races, make a “funhouse” course with obstacles and stations, then time kids running their way through it. Whatever you do, make it fun.
The best part of having a PE teacher dad was that we learned to love to move. Yes, formal sports and lessons and activities are wonderful, but no matter where we live or what financial constraints we face, we can help our kids get up and go. Get creative and move those bodies!
Photo by bpende
:: My Idealistic memory – Traveling around the country in our tent-trailer, learning history and seeing the rich variety of American landscape.
:: A Realistic goal – Though nothing beats the real thing, we have the tremendous advantage today of traveling the world online. We can expose our children to virtually every culture on the planet through online research. Plus, digital documentaries are often far more impressive to view than the real thing!
Daily plan time for exploring and learning about other cultures, countries, customs. Then, make it tactile. Buy some Indian cloth and dress up in saris. Cook a french meal and build an Eiffel tower out of Legos. Learn a greeting in another language and practice saying it all through the day.
And, as much as your budget allows, do plan reasonable trips. And the less your accommodations resemble home, the better. The greatest lesson travel teaches is that not everyone lives like we do.
Start small and remember: Keep it simple. A garden hose in the driveway, three-legged races in the yard, a meal African style.
Because of all the lessons my mom taught me, the greatest of all was this:
The most extraordinary education begins with a mother who smiles.
What are your ideal homeschool dreams? How can you use those idealistic dreams to fuel realistic goals?